The story of the Mille Miglia begins in 1921 when the Auto Club di
Brescia organized the first Italian Grand Prix. Seeing the success of this
race the much larger Automobile Club of Milan built the Autodromo
Nazionale Monza and had the 1922 Italian Grand Prix held on their new
course. This outraged the people of Brescia but it was not until 1926 when
Aymo Maggi conceived the idea of a road race for sports cars that they
were able to exact some measure of revenge. This race run over a 1000-mile
course of closed public roads traveled from Brescia to Rome and back
again. These were one thousand
sometimes desperate miles lined with
just inches from the cars such that horns would blare, lights would flash
and even an occasional twitch of the car's rear end was required to convince
the gathered throng to make way. Racing through this corridor of brick and
human flesh, across centuries old bridges and narrow lanes took a special
skill that would prompt Enzo Ferrari to declare
“No driver could ever
say that he had achieved his victor’s laurels if he had not won at
Brescia.” The Mille Miglia was an
Italian party that only the German Rudolf
Caracciola and the Englishman Stirling Moss were able to crash. More than a
race it was a mad dash through Italy with cars leaving the starting point
at Brescia in 1 minute intervals. The
number on the car corresponding to its departure time. The cars were released
in reverse order to their expected performance so that during the whole of
the race the more powerful cars were hunting down their less powerful adversaries. The great Tazio Nuvolari remarked that driving the Mille Miglia
was like drinking an exotic cocktail: “You might not be able to name all
of the ingredients, but once you have sampled it, you could never forget
amongst the professional drivers were well-heeled amateurs none more
prominent than the Marzotto brothers. Heirs to a large textile factory
these brothers had the funds to acquire the best cars and at that time
this meant Ferrari. In 1950 one of the brothers, Giannino won the event
while wearing a double-breasted suit of the finest material, befitting his family's wealth,
becoming its youngest winner. Giannino Marzotto, all of 22 was not shy
about complaining to Ferrari about the heaviness and poor aerodynamics of
the available cars. Ferrari responded somewhat imperiously that his cars
were the most efficient in the world. The young Marzotto decided that for
1951 he would improve upon last year's Ferrari with an all-new design of
his own based on the Ferrari 166 with a 212 engine.
In those days before the widespread use of wind tunnels in auto racing
builders based their designs on what Marzotto called “optical
intuition”. Italy of course is
renowned for it’s coachbuilders and for his new car he turned to Sergio
Reggiani & Paolo Fontana of Padua. A low slung body with a rounded
shape similar to that of an egg or Uovo in Italian was decided upon.
plan call for two cars, a coupe and a spider. The
coupe's body was constructed using braced box tubes and covered with
Puraluman a. type of Duralumin which contributed to weight savings of
around 200 pounds. A steeply raked front windshield was designed that surprisingly
offered freedom from irritating reflections. In the rain it was a
different sort of animal. At speed in heavy rain the wipers lost contact
with the windscreen making them useless. Adding to the driver's excitement
visibility returned when exceeding 100 mph due to the resultant air pressure
clearing the glass. The Uovo's tall radiator was actually the result of
the desired radiator not being delivered by Ferrari in time. This caused
the bonnet to be 15 cm higher than originally envisioned. With the driver
sitting further back than usual the car exhibited a pronounced oversteer
under throttle. Marzotto with typical understatement described its
handling as "frisky".
some testing in the nearby mountains the intrepid brothers went to
Maranello to show their Uovo to Ferrari. Their meeting did not go well.
Ferrari appeared offended by this perceived challenge from a family of amateurs.
The fact that they were well-healed customers did not lessen his derision
and he promptly informed the Marzottos that he would enter a car in Sicily
driven by Taruffi to defend the colors of the Cavallino. This only
served to stiffen the brothers resolve. At the Giro di Sicilia Giannino,
driving the coupe, opened a lead of 20 km over the second place car. At
Messina he felt the rear axel tighten up and glancing out the rear window
he mistook the glare for a fire brewing at the rear. Jumping out of the
car he found the problem was only a loose differential incorrectly
attached by the Ferrari mechanics back at the factory. While dismayed at
losing the race he was heartened to learn that it was his brother,
Vittorio who had won driving the spider. He contacted Ferrari the
following Monday hoping to tweak the old man's nose. But the legend that
is Ferrari would not succumb so easily and the man that Froilan Gonzalez
called the Sacred Monster of Motor Sport would simply declare ...
"It went as I had predicted, a Ferrari won the race."
1951 Mille Miglia saw a squad of powerful Ferrari 4.1s entered by the
Scuderia. Against this formidable opposition was Giannino in his
Uovo now fitted with triple carburetors boosting its engine to 186 hp.
With its improved aerodynamics and lighter weight it could match the
larger cars in overall speed if not acceleration. The Uovo's one clear
advantage was it's maneuverability. Without pushing his car Marzotto opened
a 10-minute lead over the field after the first 600 of 1600 kilometers. Arriving
at the outskirts of Senigallia he heard a loud drumming noise coming from
the rear. Fearing the possibility of a frozen differential tossing his car
into the Italian countryside and himself into immortality he stopped a
couple of time to investigate. Checking the tires with his hands in the
off possibility that this may be the source of the noise he could feel
nothing. Reluctantly he decided to withdraw from the race which was won by
Villoresi in one of the 4.1s. Later Marzotto would joke that he only
withdrew at that point because Senigallia was famous for its fish broth
and fried scampi. The Uovo was loaded onto a truck bound for Modena. It
was common for customers to bring their cars back to the factory for
maintenance. Marzotto would travel ahead to complain to Ferrari about his
differentials. A man of culture and no small amount of self deprecating humor,
Marzotto relates what happened after the race...
|The yearbook contains 280 pages of exclusive photographs and features detailing Ferrari’s year on the roads and on the track.
Purchase Yearbook from Ferrari Store
- Ferrari’s 60 years of victories in Formula 1 from Gonzales’ first win in Silverstone in 1951 to Alonso’s on the same circuit this very season.
- A special section also details the racing year, covering everything from Formula 1 to our huge success in the GT Championships.
- Lots of space has been devoted also to our new models: you’ll see the 458 Spider driven by Jamiroquai frontman Jay Kay, and the FF put through its paces on snow and sand.
- There’s also an extensive feature on the new Tailor-Made programme which allows owners to personalise their Ferrari to an extent unprecedented anywhere in the auto world
Villoresi had been the first across the line at Brescia, but his car was
in very poor mechanical shape - not to mention the bodywork. Ferrari
patiently listened to my remonstrations until someone told us that the
truck with the Uovo had arrived. We accompanied Ferrari to the workshop
and I nearly dropped when I saw that the offside tire - the one that I
checked personally - sported an enormous rubber blister on its inner
understood immediately that my fingertips had not reached the point where
the thread has come away from the canvas as a result of the high speeds. I
could have changed the tire and set off still in the lead in exchange of
no more than a few minutes. Ferrari said nothing, but as soon as we got
back to his office he picked up a cylinder barrel and threw it at me. I
ducked to avoid the missile and exited with a cheery smile: he had risked
losing the race, I had lost it.
would come to the Uovo at its next outing, the Giro di Toscana. In 1953,
Giannino Marzotto would return to the Mille Miglia and victory driving one
of the Ferrari 4.1s. The Uovo can still be seen at various historic
Marzotto, Giannono. Ferrari
World. London: Hyde Park Media Services Ltd., 1996
Marzotto, Giannono. Red Arrows
- Ferraris at the Mille Miglia. Milan: Giorgio Nada Editore, 2001.
Miller, Petter. Conte Maggi's
Mille Miglia. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988